Trying to Do More with Less – The Signal (2014)

Indie sci-fi.  So when a group of three college kids following the electronic trail of a notorious hacker, they make the somewhat questionable decision to break into the deserted house of the signal source.  Blackout and changeover to an underground research lab, where our main guy (Brenton Thwaites) is trying to figure out what exactly has happened.  Now I knew nothing about this other than the fact that it has an intriguing poster, so for the entire first act, I really had no idea where it was going.

signalGiven the poster and the fact that this features kids doing stupid kid stuff, I thought they might accidentally launch themselves into space.

Now this is science-fiction without an exorbitant budget, so don’t be expected to be wowed with special effects.  Did you happen to see the 2010 movie Monsters?  It specialized in implying that there was a big-budget special effect just around the corner, so your imagination ended up doing the lion’s share of work.  This is a lot like that, and apart from a few higher end effects toward the end, the most expensive thing to this is probably all of the hazmat suits.

amazonAlthough doing an Amazon search, I found that there is a model that is currently 93% off for $14.33.  People sure do love their Breaking Bad.

The thing about this is that it is filmmaking with promise, but the story itself is disjointed and pretty messy.  Director William Eubank has worked mostly as a cinematographer in the past, and that makes sense,  He shows promise, and it’s not like Wally Pfister, who transitioned to directing by doing the awful Transcendence; Eubank shows a lot of potential, especially with visuals.  He needs to hone his story-telling skills by finding himself a dynamite script that will put him on the map.  The main complaint I have here is that The Signal toys with a lot of ideas, but it hardly ever commits, wanting to keep its options as open as possible.  Is it a hacker movie?  Is it an alien abduction movie?  Is it a government conspiracy movie?  It presents a lot of questions, but doesn’t necessarily provide you with the answers, and by the halfway point, I was ready for it to decide what exactly it wanted to be.  On the positive side, I will say that the score is pretty cool and mostly experimental, which I did appreciate.  Also, I do feel that Laurence Fishburne elevated this to being a good bit better than it would have been without him, as he is a very capable actor as he always is.  Overall, this is decent and has good twists and turns to it, but I couldn’t help but feel that this had the potential to be a lot more special than it ended up being.

The Signal (2014) ***

– Critic for Hire

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